FRENCH, SAMUEL, (deceased), for many years one of the most widely known and highly respected agriculturists of Morgan County, was born in Loudon, N.H., November 9, 1812, and died at his home east of Chapin January 25, 1879. His parents were Samuel and Susan (Tilton) French. In Halstead, Essex County, England, was born on March 13, 1603, Lieutenant William French, the founder of the family in America. He came to this country in 1635 and settled in Dunster Street, Cambridge, Mass., the property of which he became the owner comprising the present site of Harvard University. Samuel French, the subject of this brief sketch, emigrated to Illinois in 1837, locating first at Alton. During his two years' residence there he was variously engaged, dividing his time between the hauling of goods from Alton to Meredosia and the operation of a small dairy. Though he worked hard to attain the success which he had been led to believe was so easy in the West, he became discouraged with the outlook, and had almost decided to return to his home in New Hampshire, when he was prompted to come to Morgan County, about the richness of whose land he had heard so much. Coming to the western portion of the county in 1839, he soon secured employment, and by 1841 had saved enough money to enable him to purchase of a Mr. Barton a farm near Chapin, on which his son, Arthur L. French, now resides. Still heavily in debt, he commenced to improve the place and rid himself of the incubus of debt. The success which met his efforts may best be judged by the statement that, at the time of his death, he was the proprietor of 1,000 acres of generally fertile and highly cultivated land. Upon this property he resided during the remainder of his life, and became widely known as a successful farmer and stock raiser - a man who kept fully abreast of the most advanced thought in agricultural science.
Mr. French exhibited a deep and abiding interest in all matters pertaining to the general welfare of the community in which he lived. Reared a Whig, he was a strong antislavery man, and, upon its organization, naturally identified himself with the Republican party, voting for General John C. Fremont in 1856, despite an overwhelming public sentiment against that candidate in his locality. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was one of the first and most liberal contributors of his means toward the support of the Union cause, and served as Captain of the "Wideawakes" during the existence of that organization. Throughout his entire life he embraced every possible opportunity to assist in the promotion of worthy enterprises of a public nature, for he was a thoroughly public spirited and progressive citizen. He was an especially stanch friend of education, and, associated with Mr. Moody and J. D. Cooper, erected the first schoolhouse in his section of the county. For many years he served as a member of the School Board, and always endeavored to secure the best possible instructors, regardless of the question of remuneration. On but one occasion did he permit his name to be used as a candidate for political office, when he accepted the nomination for Representative in the Legislature, but, on account of the overwhelming Democratic majority in the district he was defeated at the polls. In religion he was a member of the Congregational Church at Joy Prairie, to whose support he was a liberal contributor.
Mr. French was first married June 2, 1835, to Nancy S. Thompson of Concord, N. H., who died in 1849. Their children, all of whom are now deceased, were as follows: Frederick, Frederick T., Charles F., and Laura A. The latter became the wife of henry J. Atkins, and left one son, Herbert F. Atkins, now a resident of Jacksonville. On April 17, 1850, Mr. French was united in marriage with Martha Fox, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and a daughter of Rev. John Fox, a minister of the Methodist Protestant Church. They became the parents of two sons - Charles Samuel and Arthur Lincoln, both of Chapin. Mrs. French died January 28, 1891.